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Chapter 6 Reading Notes.odt

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Wilfrid Laurier University
Todd Ferretti

READING NOTES Chapter 6: SENTENCE COMPREHENSIONAND MEMORY Main Points • Parsing is the process of assigning elements of surface structure to linguistic categories ◦ Because of limitations in processing resources, we begin to parse sentences as we see or hear each word in a sentence • We use syntactic, semantic, and pragmatic knowledge to comprehend sentences ◦ An ongoing debate is whether we use these forms of knowledge simultaneously or whether we process syntactic information first • Figurative language is language that literally means one thing but is taken to mean another ◦ Although we may sometimes use literal meaning as a guide to figurative meaning, we can also comprehend figurative language directly • We ordinarily remember the gist of a sentence and quickly forget its surface form ◦ An exception is pragmatically significant statements, such as insults, whose exact wording is often well remembered Immediate Processing of Sentences Parsing • Afirst step in the process of understanding a sentence is to assign elements of its surface structure to linguistic categories, a procedure known as parsing ◦ The result of parsing is an internal representation of the linguistic relationships within a sentence, usually in the form of a tree structure or phrase marker • According to immediacy principle, when we first see or hear a word, we access its meaning from permanent memory, identify its likely referent, and fit it into the syntactic structure of the speech • The alternative to immediate processing is to take a “wait-and-see” approach: to postpone interpreting a word or phrase until is is clearer where the sentence is going Parsing Strategies • Late Closure Strategy ◦ Wherever possible, we prefer to attach new items to the current constituent ◦ It reduces the burden on the working memory during parsing ◦ e.g.) In the sentence “Tom said that Bill had taken the cleaning out yesterday” ▪ “yesterday” may be attached to the main clause, “Tom said”, or the subordinate clause “Bill had taken” • We tend to prefer the latter interpretation (Bill had taken) • MinimalAttachment Strategy ◦ We prefer attaching new items into the phrase marker being constructed using the fewest syntactic nodes consistent with the rules of language ◦ e.g.) “Ernie kissed Marcie and her sister...” ▪ It could be interpreted as either a noun phrase conjuction (both (1) Marcie and her sister were recipients of a kiss) or as the beginning of a new noun phrase (2) • According to minimal attachment, we prefer (1) Modular Versus Interactive Models • Modular View ◦ The modular approach to language comprehension is which comprehension as a whole is the result of many different modules, each devoted to a particular aspect of comprehension ▪ In this view, parsing is performed initially by a syntactic module that is not influenced by higher-order contextual variables such as the meaning of the sentence or by general world knowledge • Interactive View ◦ The interactive view is that syntax and semantics interact during the comprehension process ◦ One type of interactive view is called the constraint-based model ▪ We simultaneously use all available information in our initial parsing of a sentence – syntactic, lexical, discourse, as well as nonlinguistic, contextual information Comprehending Figurative Language Types of Figurative Language • Indirect Speech Acts ◦ The act of saying something is referred to as the locutionary act ◦ The illocutionary force of an utterance is the acton that is performed by saying the sentence ▪ In the sentence, “I congratulate you on your award” the illocutionary force is a congratulation; the act of saying the sentence is the locutionary act ▪ An utterance with an illocutionary force is commonly referred to as a speech act ▪ The perlocutionary effect of the utterance is the effect of the utterance on the listener ◦ Whether a person addressed has the ability or willingness to perform the desired action and the reason that the action is necessary are referred to as felicity conditions • Metaphor ◦ “Billboards are warts on landscape” ▪ The topic or tenor of the metaphor is billboard ▪ The vehicle is what is predicated of the tenor, here it is is warts ▪ The ground of the metaphor is the implied similarity between the tenor and vehicle Studies of Figurative Language Comprehension • Pragmatic Theory ◦ It is generally held that linguistic communication takes place within a context of shared assumptions about communication ▪ These implicit assumptions are referred to as conventions Grice's Four Conventions for Conversations Make your contribution as informative as required, but not more informative than is 1. Quantity required Try to make
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